Pulmonary Rehab

Written by: Dean Liuzzi
Published: September 27, 2022

How do I exercise safely without causing myself excessive shortness of breath?

Exercise, whether it is cardiovascular training or resistance training will cause you to get up a bit of a puff particularly if you have any respiratory issues such as COPD, Long Covid, Asthma & Tuberculosis. This is normal, however, we want to minimise this becoming excessive or making you feel like you can’t get your breath back. There is a couple of ways to go about this.

Utilising a Rate of perceived exertion chart (RPE) (how hard you find the exercises) and a Borg dyspnoea scale (how out of breath you are while doing the exercises). These provide a good grading on how hard and out of breath you are when completing exercise. This means we use this information to slowly increase (if the exercises are becoming easier) or decrease (if you are feeling particularly out of breath one day). We know through evidence a safe range to exercise in on the RPE scale is 12-16/20 (moderate-hard) and on the Borg Scale 0-3/10 (no shortness of breath to moderate shortness of breath). This range means limiting adverse events and reducing any excessive shortness of breath that may occur.

What is a safe way to improve my cardiovascular fitness?

Something that we utilise with our clients that have pulmonary rehabilitation is continuous exercise (to replicate long tasks such as walking, climbing a hill, etc,) and interval exercise ( to replicate short bouts that are harder such as climbing stairs). Continuous exercise such as walking for x amount of time or distance or riding a bike for x amount of time are great ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness as you are not getting excessively short of breath due to exercising as at lower intensity for longer.

Interval exercise such as short periods of riding a bike or walking at a faster speed with alternate periods of walking/riding at your normal speed has been shown to have great improvements on those with respiratory issues. This is due to having to work above what is your normal pace for a short time, before then lowering back down. This helps to increase fitness whilst making you have to puff a bit harder for only shorter periods. Intervals can be as easy as tapping stairs or marching on the spot.

How can resistance training help me with my pulmonary condition?

Resistance training makes the muscles that assist with breathing (muscles around your ribs and back) stronger. Due to majority of those with a pulmonary condition being quite deconditioned or quite rounded/closed off in their posture to assist with breathing.

We aim to make sure your postural muscles are strong to open up your chest to make it easier to breath, also improve your strength so that it requires you less energy/oxygen required for completing as tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, etc.